Camera, Printer Blend in Box

SAN FRANCISCO (07/31/2000) - Polaroid invented instant-gratification photography decades ago. And digital cameras provide another kind of gratification--you can look at the picture immediately and decide whether to keep it. Now Olympus America Inc. and Polaroid Corp. are working together to put both kinds of gratification into one camera.

The camera is the Olympus C-211 Zoom, due out in October. Like any digital camera, it lets you examine each picture on its liquid crystal display, store the ones you want on SmartMedia, and later download them to your computer. But you have the additional option to print out the pictures then and there.

According to Olympus, the C-211 Zoom will appeal mostly to people in photo-heavy professions such as real estate and insurance. These professionals will be able to take a picture, make immediate copies (yes, you can print more than one) for clients, and still have the picture for their own records.

Olympus is also hoping, of course, that regular consumers will want instant printing, too.

But that printing adds bulk. The C-211 Zoom is seven inches long, more than five inches wide, and it weighs over a pound. That's two to three times the size and weight of other digital cameras.

The price is higher too, of course, but not outrageously. Olympus recommends a list price of $799, which is about $100 more than other cameras with similar nonprinter features. Those features include 2.1-megapixel resolution and a 3x optical and 2x digital zoom.

Get It on Paper

The C-211 Zoom prints pictures onto the same film used in Polaroid cameras.

Olympus claims the resulting image is comparable to a dye supplication print, without the visible pixels of an ink jet print. Using controls on the camera, you can adjust the color, contrast, brightness, and sharpness of a print, which takes 15 seconds to make.

If the image is really that good, people may want to use the camera to make prints of pictures they've already downloaded onto their computers.

Unfortunately, that's not possible. The C-211 Zoom provides no way to get such a picture back into the camera for printing.

Not everyone will want instant printing--and not everyone who wants it will want it enough to pay more and carry more. But the C-211 Zoom is still good news: The addition of one major new feature may push down the costs of other digital cameras for everyone.

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